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Evaluation Findings - Family Law Workshops for Self-Representing Litigants
July 30, 2014

Navigating the Family Justice System: Workshops for Self-Represented Litigants

The number of self-represented litigants (SRLs) handling their own family law proceedings in the Province of New Brunswick has grown significantly over the past decade, and this growth is expected to continue into the future. This trend is being driven by a combination of factors: the higher incidence of separation and divorce; the complexity of the legal issues within the family law arena; and the paucity of supports such as legal aid and family mediation services for individuals who cannot afford legal representation. PLEIS-NB has been working to address access barriers over the past several years. In 2012, PLEIS-NB, in consultation with relevant legal and community stakeholders, initiated the Navigating the Family Justice System: Workshops for Self-Represented Litigants Project.

Funding was received from the Ontario Law Foundation under the Access to Justice Fund. The funding was for a two-year period, beginning in December 2011 and ending on November 30, 2013. The essential goal was to inform and educate individuals who self-represent on family law matters such as divorce, support variation, and custody and access issues.

Over a 1 ½ year period (April 2012 to November 30, 2013) there were:

  • 92 workshops scheduled (62 in English; 30 in French).
  • 53 workshops delivered (45 in English; 8 in French).
  • 692 registrants.
  • 496 participants attended (80% of participants were personally dealing with a family law problem).
  • 66% (328) of the participants were female and 34% (68) were male.
  • Separation: Legal Considerations was the most popular workshop with 273 participants followed by Doing Your Own Divorce with 127 participants.

A formal evaluation of the project showed that, in overwhelming numbers, workshop participants were very positive in describing their family law workshop experience. They found the sessions informative, timely, and very relevant to their current situation(s) and needs; they indicated that the lawyers-presenters were knowledgeable about the issues, presented the material in an ‘easy to understand’ manner, and were helpful in expanding on issues and answering questions. Other helpful and appreciated elements included: the ‘take home’ information kits; that the workshops were offered in both urban and rural locations within the province; and that they were free (no cost) to attend.

In light of the evaluation findings that demonstrate the positive impact of the workshops for self-represented litigants, PLEIS-NB is searching for financial assistance to continue offering the workshops around the Province as a core activity.

To read the full Executive Summary of the Evaluation Report, click here.


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